SoxProspects News

May 5, 2020 at 8:54 AM

Cup of Coffee: Where are they now? In the KBO.


5/5 Cup of Coffee: While the baseball situation in North America is very much in flux, the much better situation in South Korea has allowed the Korean Baseball Organization to kick off its season. With the KBO's new status as the highest-level sports league in the world and a prime new deal from ESPN, it's a good time to look at some familiar faces who came through the Red Sox organization who are there. A tip of the hat to Chris Hatfield, who pointed these out on Twitter.

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Kelly was the top prospect in Boston's system and was ranked 24th in the game by Baseball America heading into the 2010 season. The Sarasota High School standout was a top prospect as both a shortstop and pitcher in the 2008 draft but fell to the Red Sox with the 30th pick because of high bonus demands and a commitment to play quarterback for the University of Tennessee. In those olden days when the slot recommendation was merely a weak guideline meant for the rich teams to blow past, Boston signed him for $3 million and an agreement that he could begin his career as a two-way player. That is the third-highest bonus ever given out by the Red Sox behind only Jay Groome and Andrew Benintendi. He moved exclusively to the mound in 2010.

Kelly was considered the prime piece of the the deal that brought Adrian Gonzalez to Boston before the 2011 season. He had a strong campaign in his first year with the Padres in a repeat of Double-A (the Red Sox had given him an aggressive assignment to Portland as a 20-year-old, which he struggled with), but struggled with injuries and consistency thereafter. He reached the majors in 2012 but tore his UCL in spring training 2013, requiring Tommy John surgery. Kelly returned to the mound in late 2014 and to the majors in 2015. He bounced around to the Braves, Cubs, and Giants organizations before landing in Korea in 2019 with the LG Twins where he found success: in 29 starts, Kelly turned in a 2.55 ERA, good for fourth in the circuit among pitchers with 100 or more innings. He struck out 126 and walked only 41 in 180 1/3 frames. The Twins brought him back to anchor their 2020 rotation on a $1.5 million deal

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The lottery ticket in the Andrew Bailey deal all those years ago after a dominant debut in the Gulf Coast League, Alcantara had a very impressive run through the minors but failed to establish himself at the major league level. His calling card throughout his career has been outstanding control. walkking 147 batters in 711 minor league innings.. He posed a 3.60 ERA across three seasons with Oakland's Triple-A affiliate in Nashville, walking 24 and striking out 107 in 162 2/3 frames, but surrendered a 7.19 mark in 46 1/3 major league innings. Alcantara joined the KT Wiz in 2019, posting a 4.01 ERA, striking out 100 and walking 27 in 172 2/3. His 1.4 walks per nine innings ranked second in the league. Alcantara signed with the Doosan Bears in the offseason.

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Cuevas and his 2018 World Series ring went across the Pacific in 2019, where he reuinted on the KT Wiz with Alcantara--the two were teammates in 2010 and 2011 in the DSL and GCL, respectively. Also similar to Alcantara, he found the KBO to his liking after failing to turn solid Triple-A production into MLB success. Cuevas delivered a 3.62 ERA in 184 innings, striking out 135 and walking 63. He remains with the KT Wiz for 2020.

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The ultimate blast from the past for followers of the Red Sox farm system. Song, who will be 41 in June, was signed in 1999 and traded in 2002. Here are some Seung Song facts:

  • Seung Song does not have a player page on SoxProspects.com because he was traded before the establishment of SoxProspects.com.
  • Last week in this space we made a jokey reference to "ex-prospect" Jon Lester. Lester signed with the Red Sox on August 13, 2002, 14 days after the Red Sox traded Song.
  • Song has been with the Lotte Giants since 2007. He has won 107 games and thrown 1,621 innings for them. Six MLB players have the same tenure: Dustin Pedroia, Ryan Zimmerman, Alex Gordon, Ryan Braun, Yadier Molina, Adam Wainwright, and Joey Votto.  Wainwright is the only major league pitcher who has been with his team as long as Song has been a member of the Giants. 
  • When Song was on the Lowell Spinners in 2000, he was joined by a rehabbing Bret Saberhagen. Saberhagen won the Cy Young Award 35 years ago. 
  • The Red Sox traded Song for Cliff Floyd. Floyd was once traded for Joe Orsulak. There is an active player who was traded for a player traded for Joe Orsulak.
  • Song was traded for Floyd. Floyd played for the Expos with Dennis Martinez. Dennis Martinez played for the Orioles with Brooks Robinson, who debuted in 1955. Robinson has been in the Hall of Fame since 1983. 
  • Song was ranked #60 in Baseball America's Top 100 prospects in 2002, highest in the Boston system that year. Both the prospect immediately ahead of him, the 31st-ranked player, and the #1 prospect that year ended up with the Red Sox, and all were traded away in the same deal: Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, and Josh Beckett. (Nick Punto was unranked). Other names familiar to Boston who were ranked that year: Mark Prior (#2), Dennis Tankersley (16), Brandon Phillips (20), Jake Peavy (28), Wily Mo Pena (65), Bobby Jenks (74), Erik Bedard (90), Tony Blanco (93), Victor Martinez (97). 
  • The Red Sox top prospect, Triston Casas, was born seven months after Song made his professional debut as a member of the GCL Red Sox. Song has been pitching professionally for Triston Casas's entire life. 
  • The Red Sox signed Song when I was in high school. I am 39 years old.


Photo Credit: Casey Kelly by Kelly O'Connor

 
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